Karnataka’s Mandya has been a hotbed of controversy ever since the Lok Sabha elections were announced. With Nikhil Kumaraswamy, the son of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, and actor-politician Sumalatha, wife of the late Congress MP Ambareesh, competing for the constituency, several eyes are on the district to see who will clinch the seat.
The latest controversy emerging from the district is an audio clip, allegedly that of incumbent Mandya MP LR Shivarame Gowda’s son Chetan Gowda, claiming that the Deve Gowda family is willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money to ensure that Nikhil wins from Mandya.
Allegedly speaking to former Congress leader P Ramesh, Chetan Gowda claims that around Rs 5 lakh per booth will be spent to ensure that Nikhil wins the Mandya seat, to which the other person (allegedly P Ramesh) replies that the total amount to be spent will be Rs 150 crore. “The Deve Gowda family is spending around Rs 5 lakh per booth for around 2,800 booths in the district,” claims the voice, allegedly belonging to Chetan Gowda, in the clip.
Responding to the allegations made in the clip, HD Kumaraswamy said that the family is not dependent on such tactics and relies on the support of the people for its win. Meanwhile, Sumalatha, who decided to contest as an independent candidate from the constituency, said in a campaign speech in Malavalli that it was now clear that Kumaraswamy was willing to go to any lengths to secure a win.
The battle in Mandya is a do or die one for the JD(S). The party had won all seven assembly segments during the 2018 polls. The clear majority in Mandya seemed like the right time for JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda to introduce his grandson into politics. With the electioneering in Mandya taking centre stage in Karnataka, Deve Gowda has now created a platform for Nikhil Kumaraswamy to become a well-known face across the state. At this juncture, a loss for the JD(S) would come as an embarrassment to the party, especially in a district considered to be its stronghold.
Sumalatha’s late husband, actor and Congress MP Ambareesh was a tall figure in Mandya's political scenario. Following his death, several speculations arose that she would be given the seat on behalf of the Congress, but ultimately the JD(S)-Congress coalition gave the seat to Nikhil.
While both Nikhil and Sumalatha are novices in the frontlines of politics, they are not at all new faces to the public. Nikhil, being the son of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the grandson of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, is the third generation from the political dynasty to enter the political arena. Sumalatha, on the other hand, is a familiar face in the district, as Ambareesh was a native of Mandya and represented the district in the Lok Sabha twice for the Congress and once for the JD(S). Several Congress leaders have reportedly refused to campaign for Nikhil as they are in favour of the seat going to Sumalatha.
Sensing rising tensions between the JD(S) and the Congress, senior Congress leader and former CM Siddaramaiah has asked party workers to set aside their rivalries. “The goal is to ensure that the BJP does not win and we must work towards it,” he said speaking at a gathering in Mysuru on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Karnataka state government transferred Mandya Deputy Commissioner N Manjushree on the Election Commission’s direction after allegations rose of the DC favouring Nikhil. She was transferred after Sumalatha alleged that Nikhil had violated election norms by submitting a fresh affidavit after the deadline was over. Sumalatha had also approached the Election Commission and filed a complaint in this regard.
Note: TNM cannot independently verify the veracity of the claims that the voices in the audio clip belong to Chetan Gowda and P Ramesh.